Top tips on writing press releases

Liz Banks and Nic Jones from the Social Investment Business communications team put together their top tips for writing press releases.

Press releases are a great tool for communicating launches, big events or news with local, trade and national press.  We thought it might be helpful to share some of the lessons we’ve learnt over the years about how to make our press releases easier to read and more appealing to journalists.  We’ve condensed our ideas into this list of tips – but we know there are many more, so please add any you think are helpful in the comments section below. We've also included a link to a template to get you started at the bottom.

1. Who, what, when, where, why and how? Those are the things any journalist needs to know if they are going to write up a story about you.  Make sure that within the text of your press release you cover off answers to these questions about whatever it is you are announcing. 

2. Keep it short – no longer than a side of A4 (though it might go over if you have a lot of notes to editors). Keep sentences short and don’t use a long word where a short one will do -“use” means the same as “utilise”.

3. Spell out any acronyms in full the first time you use it eg “the Office for Civil Society (OCS)…” then after just use “the OCS”.

4. Avoid jargon. Certain terms and phrases may be in common usage in your organisation but won’t mean anything to journalists or their readers. Can you say “people” instead of “service users”, “money” instead of “funding streams”? The Local Government Association press office produced a great list of confusing jargon and plain English alternatives. 

5. Include a quote from a spokesperson who is willing to talk further to the media should a journalist want a longer interview about the subject matter.

6. The best quotes are punchy, interesting and sound like how someone would really talk (rather than as if someone has cut and pasted the foreword for your organisation’s annual report and put it into quotation marks!)

7. Put all your non-news in the notes to editors – eg contact name, number and email for the person who is going to handle any media enquiries,  full description of your organisation, full bibliographical details of any report or research etc mentioned in the release.

8. Don’t forget to include links to your website and social media accounts in the notes to editors.

9. Use the same size font throughout and pick one which is serious and easy to read so that journalists can easily obtain the information they need. This isn’t the time or place for multi-coloured comic sans.

10. The headline of your release needs to be short and read like the headline you’d like to see on any article about your story in a newspaper.  It should be punchy and highlight the main point of your release.

11. Put the words “press release” in the subject line of your email, along with your headline, to make it clear what the message contains.

12. Put the text of your press release directly into the body of your email message, you’ll have a better chance of catching the journalist’s attention with your news than if you rely on them opening up an attachment.

13. Before you release it to the media or put it on your website have someone else read it through really carefully for spelling mistakes and typos. Spellcheck won’t notice words that are spelt correctly but aren't what you mean to say.

14. Understand your local media to make sure you’re getting information to the right people at the right time. Call up the newsdesk and ask what email address is the right one to send your press releases to and what time of day/week they prefer to receive them to make sure you meet their deadlines. 

15. It’s a good idea to include your stakeholders (other organisations in your sector, partners etc) when sending out your release to keep them up to date with what you are doing. 

Download our Press Release template to help you get started!

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